With the recent signing of Rajai Davis, Oakland A’s fans have once again been left scratching their heads. To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s deja vu all over again.” The casual fan may be wondering why Billy Beane traded Davis in the first place. This is a fair question, considering Davis hit an unforgettable 8th inning game-tying home run in Game 7 of the World Series.
Recent Signing of Rajai Davis Feels Like Deja-Vu
For more observant fans, the answer to that question is an easy one: it was the right move. Rajai would likely have become a non-tender free agent player at the December deadline. The A’s had recently acquired outfielder David DeJesus, and Coco Crisp would be the A’s center fielder and provide an invaluable spark to the offense in the years to come.
Despite Rajai’s Game 7 heroics, he averages just seven home runs per season. In 2016, he posted a .249 batting average and, since leaving the A’s in 2010, his six-year batting average is just .257. He has not been able to match the .287 batting average he put up in his last year as an Athletic. In short, both Davis and Beane had moments of impeccable timing.
As for the question in the knowledgeable fan’s mind – why Beane decided to reacquire Davis for the 2017 season – only time can provide the answer. Rajai may boost the offense with his stolen bases, or provide leadership in the clubhouse. He may be valuable trade bait later in the season. A’s fans can only hope that Beane once again has impeccable timing.
Beane’s Recent Moves
As every A’s fan (perhaps every MLB fan) knows, not every decision Beane has made in recent years has been a home run. In addition to Rajai, several former A’s (20 total, plus two top prospects) appeared in the 2016 MLB Postseason, leaving fans wondering what might have been. Some departures were undoubtedly welcomed (read: Santiago Casilla pitching just .2 innings in the NLDS after a horrific September and October), while others were understood to be rentals to be enjoyed for a short time in Oakland (Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija).
Some players, however, were sorely missed. Here are the top five former A’s players whose appearances in the 2016 Postseason left fans feeling “Beane-d” by Billy. Were A’s fans feeling righteous anger, or were their complaints unfounded and rooted in sentimentality?
Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
Contract Status: Zobrist was traded in June of 2015, when the A’s were sliding towards a last place finish in the AL West. Zobrist was set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Why it hurt: Zobrist is one of the most versatile players in the league – he’s a switch-hitter who can play five positions.
2016 Playoffs performance: Zobrist was named the 2016 World Series MVP after knocking in the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth inning of Game 7.
Cool Beanes or Beane-boozled? While this trade hurt, the A’s were not headed for the playoffs. It was also unlikely they would have been able to re-sign Zobrist at the end of the season. For Zobrist and cash considerations, the A’s acquired LHP Sean Manaea and RHP Aaron Brooks. While Brooks is long gone, Manaea posted a decent 3.86 ERA in 2016, despite struggling in the first half of the season. In a perfect world, the A’s would have called him up later in the season, but the young Throwin’ Samoan’s raw talent and determination carried him through the season. The future looks bright. Cool Beanes
Coco Crisp, Cleveland Indians
Contract Status: Crisp was guaranteed $13 million for the 2017 season if he made at least 550 plate appearances (or played in 130 games) in 2016.
Why it hurt: Coco was a fan favorite in Oakland. He was the sparkplug of the A’s offense as a lead-off hitter. He fought off pitches and was a threat on the base paths. And who could forget Coco’s performance in the 2012 ALDS? Fans watched in amazement as he robbed Prince Fielder of a home run in Game 3, and they danced in the aisles after his game-winning single in Game 4.
2016 Playoffs performance: Crisp had shining moments in the ALDS, ALCS, and the World Series this season. He homered in both Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 5 of the ALCS. His biggest impact was a single that knocked in the only run in Game 3 of the World Series for a 1-0 victory over the Cubs.
Cool Beanes or Beane-boozled? While Coco will be missed in Oakland, he is 37 years old, oft-injured, and has a weak arm. A’s fans can rest easy knowing that their friend Coco got to return to Cleveland, where he spent his first four MLB seasons, and play in the World Series. Cool Beanes
Josh Reddick, Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract Status: Reddick was traded in August of 2016 and was due to become a free agent in 2017. He had not been able to come to an agreement on a contract extension with the A’s.
Why it hurt: Reddick was another fan-favorite, with his acrobatic “spider-man” catches, walk-off pie escapades, and lucky wrestling belt. He hit 32 home runs during the A’s memorable 2012 season and was in Oakland for four years, which feels like an eternity to an A’s fan.
2016 Playoffs performance: Reddick appeared in 11 postseason games for the Dodgers and went 8-26 with 2 RBI.
Cool Beanes or Beane-boozled? With his batting average at a career high .296, the A’s traded Reddick when he was most valuable. As an Athletic, he displayed rock-solid defense and a strong arm, but was inconsistent at the plate, perhaps due to a multitude of injuries during his four years in Oakland. Although Reddick’s defense and gregarious personality will be missed, contract talks with the A’s were at a standstill. In a five-player trade, the A’s sent Reddick and Rich Hill to the Dodgers for pitching prospects Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, and Jharel Cotton. Cotton was a bright spot for the A’s last season, going 2-0 in 5 games with a 2.15 ERA. Cool Beanes
Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
Contract Status: Cespedes was traded in July of 2014 despite being signed through the end of 2015. It was unclear whether the A’s would have been able to offer him a contact at the end of 2015.
Why it hurt: Cespedes was a back-to-back home run champion with a Cuban missile for an arm. He had undeniable swagger and his very presence was a threat that made the lineup better.
2016 Playoffs performance: Cespedes fell flat in the NL Wild Card game, going 0-4.
Cool Beanes or Beane-boozled? This trade is tougher to assess. Although Cespedes was a serious home run threat, his batting average was mediocre due to inconsistency at the plate. His strong arm was evident in large part because he often bobbled the ball in the outfield, and had to compensate by throwing the runner out with a herculean throw. However, despite his shortcomings, Cespedes had an incredible outfield arm, power at the plate, and a dynamic personality. He also had a year left on his contract. Most importantly, the A’s season went downhill quickly after Cespedes was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Lester and Jonny Gomes. Lester was acquired to help the A’s win the AL West and avoid the Wild Card game. In the end, the A’s lost the West and barely clinched the second Wild Card spot, then fell to the Kansas City Royals in a game that Lester started. Beane-boozled
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Contract Status: Donaldson was under team control until 2018. He was traded in November of 2014 and was eligible for arbitration before the 2015 season.
Why it hurt: Donaldson was a young, dynamic player and an asset on both offense and defense. In 2013, he made his unforgettable “tarp catch.” In 2014, just before he was traded, he hit 29 home runs. Josh was an integral part of an A’s team that reached the postseason three years in a row. His WAR was 7.7 in 2013 and 7.3 in 2014. The fact that he was under club control for four more years made the trade jarring for fans, as it seemingly came out of nowhere.
2016 Playoffs performance: Donaldson hit .530 in the ALDS and .333 in the ALCS. His heads-up base running also led to a walk-off, ALDS-winning run.
Cool Beanes or Beane-boozled? Not much analysis is necessary to understand that the Donaldson trade was a swing-and-miss for Beane. Donaldson has reached the postseason in every full season he’s played. He was an MVP candidate in four of those five seasons and an All-Star in three of them. The A’s received Sean Nolin (5.28 ERA in six games in 2015, current free agent), Kendall Graveman (4.09 ERA in 56 games with the A’s, rotation candidate in 2017), Brett Lawrie (.260 BA, 16 HR in one season with Oakland), and Franklin Barreto (.293 minor league BA) for the perennial All-Star and MVP candidate. Unless Baretto maintains his batting average in the majors and plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, or Graveman emerges as an ace in the near future, A’s fans have unquestionably been Beane-boozled.
Billy Beane has been vilified for a number of trades that actually made quite a lot of sense. However, the Cespedes and Donaldson trades were nonsensical and, for most A’s fans, outweigh any positive trade that Beane has made in recent years. Here’s to hoping that one day A’s fans will see 25 of their guys in green and gold on the field in the World Series.